Hearing focuses on mistakes made on Bay Bridge

At a hearing Friday, Caltrans officials faced tough questions about ignoring and even trying to cover up problems on the Bay Bridge.
January 24, 2014 6:47:42 PM PST
We've been driving on the new Bay Bridge for months now, but on Friday new questions were raised about the quality of the construction work.

Top Caltrans officials found themselves on the defensive before lawmakers in Sacramento, having to answer tough questions about ignoring and even trying to cover up construction problems with the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

The chair of this committee, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said the goal of Friday's hearing was to simply find the truth and learn from it. But much of Friday's testimony was about a culture of secrecy at Caltrans and denial about potentially serious problems with the new Bay Bridge.

"Any issue that came up was thoroughly vetted," said Caltrans Director Malcom Dougherty.

Dougherty strongly denies the most damaging findings of a state Senate report that looks back at the construction of the new Bay Bridge, including allegations of a cover up.

"I have no evidence or no reason to believe that there was any coercion or anything like that and bullying to make determinations," Dougherty said.

At a Senate committee hearing, Caltrans Bridge Program Director Tony Anziano was mentioned most often as being the manager who regularly told staffers not to document any potential problems with the bridge, at least not in writing.

When asked if that's unusual in his experience at Caltrans, former bridge engineer Douglas Coa answerd, "Not when it's about issues that concern the quality of the project."

"I did try to regularly remind staff, please when you are communicating in whatever fashion you may be communicating, please make sure that you are accurate, not don't write things down," Anziano said.

Caltrans employee Mike Morgan was on the foundation team for the bridge when he tried to call attention to possible defects with the concrete used in the piles plunged into the bay.

"After the falsifications were discovered, it quickly became apparent to me that the problem was being kept secret and either ignored or covered up," Morgan said.

A metal expert talked about what went wrong with those giant bolts that broke and had to be replaced.

"The choice of material for these rods was grade BD high strength steel," metallurgist Lisa Thomas said. "That is why we're here today. That was completely the wrong choice of steel."

None of those who testified raised any serious concerns going forward about the safety or long-term integrity of the bridge.


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